It’s a known fact that STDs are on the rise among people of all ages. In order to combat the epidemic of diseases like herpes, laboratories all over the world are coming up with innovative ways to help people prevent STD infection.
One new product that is gaining patent approval in several nations could revolutionize the act of safe sex and give greater control to women, who have a higher risk of getting infected. This product, VivaGel, is a lubricant that acts as an antiviral gel and, in clinical trials, has proven to reduce the risk of HIV and herpes infection. The gel is to be applied to the vagina within two hours of having sex, and offers protection of up to 80% against those viruses. Researchers are still determining whether VivaGel offers protection against HPV and bacterial vaginosis. VivaGel does not protect against pregnancy.
Market research shows that 30-40% of US female college students would buy a product like VivaGel, and that figure jumps to 70% if the product could also act as a contraceptive. The fact that there is interest among young women tells the health industry there is a desire, and potential profit, for this type of product development.
Most significantly, Starpharma, the Australian company that is behind VivaGel has partnered with SSL, the makers of Durex condoms, to include the gel in a new line of condoms. To my knowledge, none of these products have been released, but will soon be available in Europe, the US, Australia, and, most recently, Japan.
I think adding an antiviral gel to condoms is a brilliant idea, as it will give a little extra protection in case the condom breaks or falls off. The gel alone is also a great idea; I just hope people won’t think they can use it as a substitute for condoms.
Although the impact in developed nations will be great, the team behind VivaGel is more excited about the impact it could have on the developing world where condom use is relatively rare. The product gives women much greater control over their own health. For example, it would be easier for a woman to apply the gel to her vagina, without her partner even knowing, than it would be for her to convince her partner to wear a condom.
Critics may say it’s unreasonable to think a woman will apply VivaGel in the correct timeframe - two hours before sex - since sex is often a spontaneous act of passion. However, I disagree. Many couples may find themselves in a routine, and it may be easy for the woman to predict when she will become intimate with her partner. I know that I, personally, like to go to the bathroom relatively soon before having sex so that I don’t get the urge while I’m in the middle of intercourse. That would be the perfect time to apply the gel. The only time a woman really couldn’t control this would be in the instance of rape. Also, if the packaging looks like a simple lubricant, a woman could use it as such. That’s all assuming the woman doesn’t want the man to know she’s using an antiviral gel to protect herself from him. However, there are (hopefully) men who would be completely accepting of his partner using such a product, especially if he realized it would protect him as well.
I’m constantly amazed and excited to hear about scientific developments in the medical field, and the people behind these discoveries inspire me. To learn more about VivaGel and the people behind the company, check out this article.